Summary: I joined as a jury member in a startup pitch competition last week. On our final discussion to announce the winner, we were debating on the different reasons of what are the right reasons to choose a winner for such a competition. It will give you a glimpse of how to prepare yourself next time you compete with your startup.
It’s never boring here in Beijing and it seems like there is always a competition hackathon, accelerator, a weekend program, or anything you can join and compete going around. Now, if Beijing is booming, other places surly are as well.
Last Friday I was part of the Jury for Seedstars World, a Swiss organized global competition. They started a world tour last March going to 20 cities around the world organizing regional startup pitch competitions.
The winner in each of those competitions wins a trip to Geneva and compete against the other 19 world wide winners. The grand prize is up to $0.5M investment in your startup.
After watching all 8 startups pitches we had to discuss and decide who is the winner. It was a tough choice.
But this post is not about the startups, it’s about the questions and debate we had while making the decision. What’s on the jury’s’ mind.
Of course, this is not what always happens when making those decisions and every competition is different the way it’s organized.
Still, it’s a way to understand how a startup can prepare for a competition and understands the jury’s decision (and perhaps if you know who the other competitors are before the actual competition, it can help you asses your winning chances).
We had to score all 8 startups in different categories but eventually it was only a supporting tool for the jury to then make an open decision of who the winner is.
So, how you decide who the winner is?
Should it be a local startup?
This one was a regional competition and the first question came up was: “Should the winner be a local startup or can it be a foreign startup which happen to be operating in Beijing as well?”
Answering this is not simple. In our global world people are moving around and there are different opportunities in different places. Now, it doesn’t mean only the locals will pick those opportunities but also people who are not locals.
So, regardless of the region, you will have foreign startups operating there and building their company. Therefore, does a competition that is happening in China suppose to necessarily send a Chinese startup to the finals?
The organizers, Pierre and Alisé from Seedstars world said that they always have this dilemma. They said that they had already non local startups winning on a regional competition and still announced them as the winners.
Helping the ones that don’t need help
There were terms for this competition. The startup needed to be less than 2 years old and raise less than $0.5M before applying to the competition.
What happens if the startup already got an investment and already have good traction? This would probably enable them to scale, no? Does such a startup really needs a push? There are others who has great ideas and perhaps even traction but never got an investment. So, who is the right one to choose?
Seedstars is a for-profit orgniation, so from investors’ point of view, as someone on our final discussion put it, it’s a low hanging fruit, deciding a company who is already doing well and got an investment as the winner. On the other hand the competition is for startups who still haven’t made it and giving them the chance to grow.
So, what’s the right choice then? This is a dilemma between your business goals and giving opportunities.
Helping to ones that we can’t help with our connections.
Sometimes decision is based on who the organizers are able to help more. It’s good for the winning startups to enjoy the organizers connections but also for the organizers themselves who of course want to create a successful case studies and stories for their brand.
So, even if you have a startup that is really good,impressive and doing well, when considering if you should join a competition, check first if the organizers can help you if you win. Meaning, on which industries are they focused on? Which connections they have? Who are their investors?
If they can’t help with their connections they got at least one reason not to choose you as the winner.
Helping a nitch startup
Nitch is great! nitch is focused and there is a lot of money in nitch start ups. So, if a jury is looking to make an investment it’s really a good choice.
On the other hand, it makes impact on less people, which makes it less “meaningful” to the world population. Of course it’s not only being nitch, it’s also about which nitch we are talking about.
In many competitions I’ve been to the startup that had more impact or “meaningful” type of solutions won (medical or even life saving solutions). And, in my opinion it’s okay, this is the way it should be. Not only cool stuff should win. “Meaningful” stuff should be our top winners when can and make it to be one of the finals.
I know I’m opening a whole new discussion of what is meaningful, and that’s ok. Still I think everybody get my point when mentioning “life saving” solution startups as being more meaningful than others.
Now over to you
Wondering what’s your experience if judging on a competition? And if you agree with the points I spoke about.
Also, would be interesting hearing examples if you were a startup in a competition. what your experience was? Add that in the comments.
Image credit by WayTru